Reflective Thought on the Day Before Thanksgiving, November 25th 2009


It has been some time since I published something From My Desk
It’s a rainy day, unseasonably warm, but chilly, which should delight the global warming/climate change alarmists. Frankly, I would prefer a warming period with vast and largely proportioned vegetation like when the dinosaurs roamed rather than an Ice Age where nothing grows and every thing dies freezing and starving. But what do I know?
I have always, going back in my educational history, enjoyed intellectual quotations of wisdom, maybe it was because as far back as I can remember I have enjoyed history and further knowledge of philosophy, enjoying intellectual thought in general.
If someone asked me to narrow it down to one quotation of my favorite it would be difficult to choose, but I believe it is the following quote of which is a prayer, called aptly, the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

As far as I can find in research this little bit of wisdom was conceived by Reinhold Niebuhr who lived in a stone cottage in Heath, Massachusetts. The little stone cottage is an historical landmark today and there is a website honoring the author – Serenity Stone Cottage. In my library I have a Catholic Holy Bible that has been a valuable reference book before the wonders of the Internet in cyberspace and the age of computer when I can have the Bible on my hard drive in English, Greek, Hebrew and Latin. But my printed edition is amazing filled with annotations, images, and a timeline history – a work of art with an entry that has come to be known as the Serenity Prayer.
Sometime in 1942, the Serenity Prayer was published in a New York Herald obituary and came to the attention of Ruth Hock the first secretary of the AA Fellowship organization (most people know as Alcoholic Anonymous established in 1935) who then ordered 500 copies of the prayer. The Serenity Prayer came into general use and stood with the other two favorite prayers: the Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis.
Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr was a theologian [1892-1971] who wrote the prayer as part of a sermon he delivered on Practical Christianity. He attributed the idea of writing the poem from studying centuries old theological writing. With Dr. Niebuhr’s permission, the prayer was printed on cards and distributed to the troops by the USO in the early portion of World War II, but by then it had become a regular printing by the National Council of Churches and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Some say that the Serenity Prayer originated from other sources in different versions, attributing the writings of ancient Greeks, ancient Sanskrit texts, Aristotle, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Spinoza, an anonymous English poet, and even an American Naval officer. In Six Mistakes of Man by Cicero the following passage reads:

…the tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected. 

Obviously, while clearly being the author of the prayer but inspired by classical thoughts of wisdom passed down through the ages.
As controversial as his attribution that he was the original author of the Serenity Prayer, so were his life, philosophy and political affiliations.
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr, 1926, Lutheran pastor and theologian … 
Since 1979, Beth K. and Peter T. of Berlin [i] researched and found that idea of the prayer that Dr. Niebuhr originated with Boethius, a Roman philosopher (despite Cicero’s quotation) that lived from 480-524 AD and was also used as a prayer by Dr. Theodor Wilhelm, a spiritual revivalist in West Germany (when Germany was still divided by the Berlin Wall) and he claimed he got the prayer from Canadian soldiers. Thus, the prayer was established as a spiritual thought within the military of various nations. As the About entry describes traces of origin or attempting to, there have been different versions depending upon what nation.
Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr was born on June 21st 1891 in Wright City, Missouri; his father was a German Evangelical pastor Gustav Niebuhr, German immigrants to America. Dr. Niebuhr graduated Elmhurst College, Illinois in 1910. He studied at Eden Theological Seminary, Webster Groves, Missouri and then to Yale University where he earned a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1914. In 1915, Mr. Niebuhr was ordained as a pastor with the German Evangelical Church. The mission board sent him to Detroit, Michigan where he attended a congregation of 65 initially, which grew to about 700 by the time he left in 1928. During his tenure as pastor there, Pastor Niebuhr was upset about the effects upon industrial workers in Detroit. He became a critic of Henry Ford and affiliated himself with union organizers using his pulpit to advocate workers’ rights. Pastor Niebuhr documented the conditions on the assembly lines and other employment problems. Pastor Niebuhr also was a passionate speaker against the Klu Klux Klan organization that had been revived in 1915 and became an influence during the 1920s and 1930s in major cities of the Midwest and American West. More than 50% of Michigan State’s KKK members lived in Detroit and a Klan candidate almost won the election for mayor in 1924. Pastor Niebuhr stated that the Klan was –
one of the worst specific social phenomena which the religious pride of people has ever developed.
In 1923, Pastor Niebuhr had the opportunity to visit Europe and met with intellectuals and theologians there. Germany at that period was occupied by French forces after the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. This experience caused Dr. Niebuhr to become a pacifist against war.
In 1926, as mentioned above, Pastor Niebuhr used his Serenity Prayer in a sermon.
In 1928, Pastor Niebuhr left Detroit to become Professor of Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Soon after arriving at the seminary Professor Niebuhr wrote of his personal experiences in his book, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. Throughout his career he would write and publish other works and also served as editor of the magazine Christianity and Crisis from 1941 through 1966.
He spent the rest of his career there until 1960. He influenced several generation of students, including the German minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the Nazi Confessing Church against Nazism. Professor Niebuhr with 51 other US citizens (headed by Albert Einstein) formed the International Relief Association (IRA), known today as the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Members of the organization included philosopher John Dewey and writer John Dos Passos. The mission of the committee was to aid Germans who were suffering because of the Hitler regime.

As you can guess, being affiliated with the unions in Detroit, during the 1930s, Professor Niebuhr became a prominent leader of the militant faction of the Socialist Party of America, incorporating his theology with political ideology and later promoted the organization of the United Front, an affiliate with the Communist Party of the United States.

During the outbreak of World War II, Professor Niebuhr’s pacifistic philosophy changed from pacifist, like his liberal colleagues, to an advocate for war when necessary. Soon after he left the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace-seeking group of theologians and ministers, and became one of their harshest critics. He then, in the framework of his Christian Realism philosophy and became a public supporter of US involvement in World War II, including anti-communism and against proliferation of nuclear weaponry at the close of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that he became a critic of US involvement in the civil war between North and South Vietnam.
When in Detroit, Pastor Niebuhr has been an advocate of converting Jews to Christianity, scolding other for ignoring those of Jewish faith in missionary work seeking conversion, which is the gist of what evangelical churches are all about. He spoke out on several occasions about
the un-Christ-like attitude of Christians.
He denounced Jewish bigotry, whether they were converted or not. The 1930s anti-Jew movement was not just in Europe; it had been instigated by the KKK, but also influenced by European immigrants who arrived from Europe prior to World War II and the period when Adolf Hitler was establishing his regime.
Just before, during and after World War II, Professor Niebuhr wrote about the horrible conditions of European Jews. [ii]
Dr. Niebuhr, in 1952, published The Irony of American History, which shares his personal struggles with political, ideological, and religious ideologies, as well as morality itself. In the publication he criticised the social gospel of liberalism, which he had been a part of in his youth and his personal search for an alternative. At one point of his life he had tried to integrate Marxism with Christianity, but it became evident that the two were polar opposite with Christian values. He called his philosophy Christian Realism. In the Gifford Lectures of Edinburgh University in 1940, The Nature and Destiny of Man, this cemented his presentation of his theology.
Having lived during the turbulent and trying times of World War and the Great Depression that followed, he wrote much about the injustice of humanity and the need to address it. With the rise of fascism and the horror that followed in the form of a second world war, he saw an evil that could only be stamped out through military force, even by Christians in an effort to prevent further spreading such hatred and inhumanity against fellow humans. Learning the lesson personally in his youth when he had followed the organizations of socialism and communism in America with the framework of society that are blue collar workers, and the corrupted unions, he wrote that the need to form and develop democracy all over the world would empower the people to rid and prevent fascism and other aggressive, bias ideologies that ultimately flame into conflict and war. As a democratic socialist, he had rallied against FDR’s New Deal as being unworkable, but changed his views after World War II had ended. He then supported the New Deal and the central platform of the Democratic Party. His work began to show leanings toward government supporting a larger role in protecting and supporting the people.
Dr. Niebuhr had great influence upon the Protestant clergy after World War II, but that influence began to dissolve when liberal theology took place influenced by socialist organizations that had infiltrated the United States from the Soviet Union in the 1930s and within the heart of labor unions. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. claimed that Dr. Niebuhr influenced his theology and philosophy. Senator John McCain, in Hard Call, mentions Dr. Niebuhr and –

…celebrated Niebuhr as a paragon of clarity about the costs of a good war. [iii]

President Barack Obama, an advocate of progressive socialism, stated that D. Niebuhr was his favorite philosopher [iv] as well as his favorite theologian.
These comments demonstrate that both conservative and liberal-progressives alike point to the theology and philosophy of Dr. Niebuhr and it is because he was once a member of the US Communist Party and then turned against it seeing their inhumane practices and agenda for world domination, just as it was for Nazi fascism.
Dr. Niebuhr died on June 1st, 1971 leaving behind his philosophy that war is just when it comes to stopping the advance of evil, the principles that date back to Cicero [v] and probably the influence when writing the Serenity Prayer, his version of statements and thoughts passed down through the ages. In this view, I believe he did not plagiarize, and even admitted the idea came from classical literature and that his version as the words are written is his, as transcribed above. Regardless, the Serenity Prayer is an example of classic wisdom.
Dr. Niebuhr’s life is an example of the hidden element in society that instigated the socialism of politics today, and with the return of economic crisis and troubling times, America reaches a crossroad where it must choose to further the infiltration of socialism within our government and societies views, or reform back to the principles of the republic and the freedom and liberties that go with it. If the new age of revolution in the concept of a second American revolution is going to succeed it will fall upon the will, the perseverance, and the desire to return values back to mainstream America.
Serenity must be accepted in things we cannot change, Americans must be courageous in performing the change required for the sake of the nation, a reformation for the betterment of the union of states, and Wisdom to initiate the reformation without violence and destruction of civilized conduct. The power of knowledge and the tool of elections must be the instruments of the Second American Revolution, and indeed all free nations and those who yearn to be free. Socialism must be sent to its grave once and for all. We the People cannot accept the change that the progressives, socialists, have on their agenda.
Tomorrow is the American Thanksgiving Day, a day set aside for family to reaffirm its unity and to celebrate an event and period in American history when settlers first established communities, several only surviving from knowledge of those people that they had met when they first arrived on America’s shores. It is a day of thanks – thanks for good friends, helpful neighbors, prosperity and the true things in life that makes a person happy. Today there are too many broken families in America and thus the broken nucleus of the family. The family is the strength of any nation, and if families self destruct, so does, eventually, the nation. In that area Americans are behind compared to other families of other nations of Earth.
Let us resolve this Thanksgiving Day, November 26th 2009, that we work harder to keep family together, strength in unity and children raised with discipline combined with love, instill the importance of good character and that integrity is something that cannot be purchased at any price. Let us resolve while achieving family unity to become more unified in the ongoing conflict of political ideals that is occurring within the government structures of both state and national concerns. In that unification we can resolve to begin the long road back to being a republic, the land of the brave, and the home of freedom and liberty for all. Let us resolve that by next Thanksgiving America’s outlook economically, politically and the ideology of our society has improved by returning back to those basics that created this nation and made it so strong. We must learn from mistakes in the past, but also realize that new ones will be made, but they must never let us to forget or depart from the principles of family values, social morality and the ideology of the republic conceived 233 years ago.
I send my blessings and best wishes to Americans in their personal celebration of family, American tradition and the spirit of America; as well as to those families of all nations who live, hope and dream pretty much what we do.
As Red Skelton would say each time he closed his television show …

Good night and may God bless.

The following is Red Skelton’s video portrayal of the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance:
May you be blessed whether you believe in God or not.


[i] AA History, Serenity Prayer.
[ii] From Wikipedia entry: It Might Have Been, Evangelical Herald, March 29, 1923, page 202; The Rapprochement Between Jews and Christians, Christian Century, January 7, 1926, pages 9-11; Germany Must Be Told, Christian Century, August 9, 1933, pages 1014-1015; and Letter to the Editor, Christian Century, May 27, 1936, p. 771. His 1933 article in the Christian Century was an attempt to sound the alarm within the Christian community over Hitler’s “cultural annihilation of the Jews.” In “Jews After the War” (in 2 parts, Nation February 21 and February 28, 1942, pages 214-216 and 253-255), Niebuhr tried to anticipate what the post-war environment would be like.[5] Eventually Niebuhr’s theology evolved to the point where “He [became] perhaps the first Christian theologian with ecumenical influence who developed a view of the relations between Christianity and Judaism that made it inappropriate for Christians to seek to convert Jews to their faith.” [6]
[iii] A Man for All Reasons, Paul Elie, The Atlantic, November 2007.
[iv] The Obama Niebuhr Connection, Allen Paul, The Toronto Star, June 14, 2008.
[v] Later, the Catholic Church would adopt Cicero’s principles concerning war, which became the Just War philosophy based upon the writings and philosophy of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, the latter considered the founding father of Roman Catholic Church foundations of philosophical theology/ideology. It was the fundamental Christian Realism that Dr. Niebuhr enhanced and introduced to the 20th century with an historical justification of war being the War between the King of Poland and the Teutonic Knights; as well as the Crusade against the conquering Muslim armies that reached the gates of Europe after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church, rival to the Roman Catholic Church who retained idol worship in the image of Christ, Mother Mary and the Saints.
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